Directed by Richard Linklater
Is it just me or has this year been insanely productive for indie/non-mainstream movies? Or perhaps I am just finding more good stuff. Which brings me to this incredible film, which transcends any genre given the main character literally grows into a man on film, shot over 12 years. It is quite remarkable – at first I’ll admit that I thought it was a bit of a gimmick – but as the the film progresses it immerses you into his world in an incredible way as you watch him not only age literally, but go through countless rites of passage for young boys. Inevitable childhood moments such as coming home drunk for the first time. I lost count of how many scenes reminded me of my own childhood – and I guess that is what would ultimately determine the extent the viewer someone could identify with this.
For me, the broken home, abusive drunks, the weekend dad who is trying his goddamned best; even the way the boy matured and the portrayal of his emotional development; it felt eerily similar to my own upbringing. One the surface it seems like a somewhat typical story of any given family, but if one digs a little deeper, you’ll find the impact seemingly minor events can have. It felt like a lite version of the pure hell a family can go through, not to mention an absurdly accurate depiction of its title.
I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling that relation to the story, but I could also see why someone who hasn’t really experienced anything like what occurs would think this is a close-to-three-hour drama about a family with issues. Those 160-odd minutes really do not linger and feel overlong in any way. It didn’t get too sappy, it didn’t devolve into scenes of out of place romance… Honestly there didn’t feel like there was anything out of place at all. Most importantly, everything that happened in the film felt real. This was a real family that went through many real-life problems that countless families face. Each family member gave you a reason to care about them, and it of course doesn’t hurt that the main character is literally developing into a man as the film goes, so it is a semi-documentary in a sense; and one that sucks you into its world. I felt it also said a lot about modern relationships, the prevalence of fighting between parents/partners, and it comments accurately on the concept of growing up in today’s society. I don’t feel movie missed a beat for its long running time.
The other characters aged very convincingly on an emotional (and obviously physical) level, especially Ethan Hawke, who I think was incredible in portraying the type of father that he did. Coming from a broken home myself, I found that his performance felt very familiar; definitely a positive element. The same can be said about Patricia Arquette; a very accurate depiction of a struggling single mother. Every actor did an amazing job, I did feel that Mason’s sister could have been cast better, as she seemed to have one of those faces that looks anywhere from 15-24, and unlike every other character, she didn’t seem to physically age. This is easily forgiven though, both because this is in comparison to Mason growing from six years of age, whereas she was years older, plus the emotional development was fantastic and played against the development of the Mason Jr. fantastically. This development of characters was apparent across the entire cast, and it again made the film transcend genres into a semi-documentary, as not only was Mason growing up on camera, but every situation the family faced wasn’t exaggerated. It was real. I think those three words sum the film up perfectly.
9.5/10 – unlike any other film I have ever seen, by a long way. I really hope this sees the cinemas here, I think it’d be amazing